By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Morning Thunder owner Richie Chavez dies

Richie Chavez, the charismatic owner of Morning Thunder cafe on Third Street, died suddenly this week.

Services are pending under the direction of Macy & Son Funeral Directors, McMinnville.

"Our community has lost a really great human being, a fabulous chef, and seriously the most cool down-to-earth people- and pooch-loving guy there ever was," Diane Longaker, who had worked with Chavez on the Melt Down fundraiser, wrote on Facebook

He treated everyone he met like family, several people posted on Facebook, reacting to the news of his death.

After news of the Morning Thunder owner's death spread, flowers and painted rocks piled up in a makeshift memorial outside the restaurant's door. Some downtown businesses began raising money for his family by donating a portion of their weekend proceeds.

Chavez has been a presence in local restaurants for nearly two decades. He spent more than seven years cooking at the Wild Wood Cafe, then left its kitchen in late 2011 to plan his own cafe.

He opened Morning Thunder in early March 2012, saying he planned to serve "American food prpared in a fresh, healthy way," with half the menu vegetarian. His restaurant quickly became popular for its bold flavors and big portions.

Chavez was known for frequently leaving the kitchen to mingle with guests. "I want customers to feel relaxed and know they're welcome to sit and stay awhile," he told the News-Register shortly after opening.

Several people on Facebook mentioned seeing Chavez at the Cruising McMinnville festival Aug. 28. He had been involved with the festival since Morning Thunder started; six months after opening, his was one over several restaurants that donated part of their festival weekend proceeds to the YCAP food bank.

“I like doing things for the community,” he told the News-Register. “I think it’s a great deal for YCAP.”

Chavez continued to support the food bank during the annual Melt Down grilled cheese fundraiser, offering specials such as grilled cheese spiced up with jalepeno peppers.

Ruben Contreras Jr. noted Chavez's passing on his Facebook page Thursday night. "Richie was such a talented, cool dude. What an original!" he wrote. "Thanks for pouring your life into making such a welcoming community place serving delicious food. Rest in Peace Richie, you did magic downtown."

Chris Durig, who owns Mac Daddy Donuts a block east of Morning Thunder, called Chavez "one of the most real people in the community."

"His renowned hospitality and genuineness set the bar for all of us who worked next to him on Third Street," Durig said. "He will be deeply missed."

Chavez is survived by his wife, Desiree Chavez; his daughter, Nova Chavez; stepsons Reif Henderson and Roman Flores; and fur babies Daisy Mae and Harley.



He will be missed soooo much! Thank you for all the good meals, good laughs and good vibes. RIP Richie!